How Car Dealerships Can Survive Service-Dept. Crunch

How Car Dealerships Can Survive Service-Dept. Crunch

Many vehicle owners put off winter maintenance until just before a holiday. 

“Holiday rush” makes you think of malls and airports, but dealership service lanes have a last-minute holiday scramble of their own.

While service advisers recommend performing maintenance long before bad weather and heavy traffic plague holiday travelers, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence reports many vehicle owners put off winter maintenance until just three days prior to a holiday.

AAA studies indicate nearly 100 million Americans drive 50 miles (80 km) or more to see loved ones during the average holiday season. So the last-minute maintenance rush can leave dealerships and customers alike pulling out their hair trying to get everything done.

It doesn’t have to be that way. With the right tools and best practices in place, dealerships can give customers a premium experience even during the hectic holidays. Here’s how.

’Tis the season to Email Market

One of the best customer-centric approaches a dealership can take is also one of the simplest. According to a Yesmail study, email marketing becomes much more effective toward the end of the year. Consumers are on the hunt for enticing deals in their inboxes, looking for something well beyond ugly holiday sweaters and toys.

In fact, during the 2014 holiday season, a record number of consumers opened emails from businesses. Average open rates remained steady, even when email volume increased 46%.

Vehicle owners need to service their cars anyway, so leverage their inbox-focused mindsets to bring them back to your service drive.

Use software to engage and incentivize customers with timely, targeted promotions. It can help dealerships realize on average $359 on each service order, 30 recaptured lost souls per promotion and a $7 return for every $1 invested on lost souls per month. Who doesn’t love a holiday bonus?

Mobile: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Mobile is the most popular communication tool in the digital marketing world, and making your messaging mobile-friendly is non-negotiable. Your customers are already using their phones to make holiday travel plans and catch up with family. If your messaging doesn’t meet them where they are, you’ll miss them.

With the right software, you can capture demand anytime, anywhere. It’s easy to use text messages, email or phone calls to keep customers up to date about service appointments.

And it pays off. Effective communication boosts service-retention rates an average of 9.6%, especially during the high-stress seasonal rush, when every inconvenience is multiplied tenfold.

But mobile messaging shouldn’t be a holiday special. Timely and effective communication helps dealerships realize an average of $13,000 in additional monthly revenue all year long.

Everyone Loves a Holiday Deal

When it comes to promotions, timing is everything. Send marketing promotions when people most expect special offers. This will drive more business and help customers avoid further problems down the road. Your offers should entice customers to schedule an appointment. Measure the campaign’s success in real time to see where small tactical shifts could drive better results.

Deliver Everything on Their Wish Lists

Filling your service drive is one thing, managing the surge of appointments and walk-ins is another. The last thing customers need to add to their holiday stress is uncertainty about when their vehicles will be ready.

Smart dealers use software to deliver a premium ownership experience, from marketing promotions to scheduling the appointment, to service lane check-in, to handing back the keys.

Access to customer service histories, inspections and up-to-date recall information takes the guesswork out of service. It keeps customers happy and engaged. Even better, a smooth service experience can boost retention rates, year-round revenue and overall customer satisfaction.

The holiday service drive may feel intimidating, but with the right mindset and a robust set of digital tools, your service department can turn stress and fear into goodwill and cheer. Happy holidays!

Jim Roche is Xtime’s senior vice president-marketing and managed services.

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